Proctors’ story offers love, acceptance and hope

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Re: “Mother, daughter share coming-out story at Barton College,” Nov. 27:

A thank-you to Kathy Proctor! Featured in a Wilson Times article with her daughter EJ, she represents thousands of Christian mothers, many from conservative religious backgrounds, who are rejecting condemning theology and choosing instead to support their LGBTQ children.

Networking on social media, they’re coming out with unconditional love, support and affirmation for their kids. “Mama Bears,” fierce-loving “Mama Dragons,” Freed Hearts” and “Free Mom Hugs” are all found online. Members of “Free Mom Hugs” attend LGBTQ events to offer, well, free hugs to those who’ve been rejected. They serve as “stand-in moms” at weddings of those without parental support. I encourage like-minded Wilson moms to participate in these groups. Locally, there’s PFLAG. Several mainline churches are increasingly LGBTQ-inclusive and offer pastoral care.

These moms know their kids and the damage done to them by religious condemnation. As an advocate with LGBTQ family members, I’m grateful for these “mom groups.” They reject the narrative that their children should either remain celibate, depriving themselves of a life partner, or attempt to “re-orient” themselves in a marriage to someone of the opposite sex.

Both gay and straight individuals have been hurt by these messages. Leaders of “ex-gay ministries” have apologized for the harm they caused, acknowledging “change is possible” as fraudulent. The movie “Boy Erased” exposes the abusive tactics of conversion programs. Notably, the online Straight Spouse Network has supported thousands of straight individuals after their spouse comes out as lesbian or gay. Couples in mixed-orientation marriages may choose to remain together, though SSN reports the majority of those contacting the group divorce. Amicable divorces are not uncommon.

The Wilson Times addressed the reality parents face when kids “come out.” Many are isolated. Stigma prevents seeking help and being unaware of resources is common. While I lived in Wilson, I remember a teenager ousted from his home after coming out. I attended funerals for those who committed suicide after being disowned and told God didn’t love them. The Proctors are positive role models; I pray their story makes a difference for all young people and their families!

My gratitude for the article and the families who support their LGBTQ loved ones!

Susan Jaquith

Silver Spring, Md.